The City of Ponchatoula again participated in the national “Lights On Afterschool” event with its “Family & Friends Night” at the Ponchatoula Community Center for a time of celebrating the growth and positive results of its own after-school program.
Called “Ponchatoula Student Outreach,” the program’s motto is “From Afterschool to Bright Futures” and according to reports on improvement in behavior and grades, the future is looking much brighter for some who have needed that extra encouraging nudge.
It was more like Thanksgiving with all the appreciation expressed by each speaker from the microphone as well as family members around the tables.
Program Director May Stilley and Mayor Bob Zabbia kicked off the evening with warm welcomes and thanks to students, parents, and guardians, City Council members, principals, teachers, volunteers and sponsors who have been generous in time and means to help the City make it all possible. School board members Mike Whitlow and Rose Dominguez were in attendance and acknowledged.
Stilley also paid special tribute to the school bus drivers who do not charge extra to bring the students from their respective schools to the Community Center for their classes and to Transportation Coordinator, Tessa Hills. At one table, Key Club members from Ponchatoula High School were recognized for their volunteering to help give one-on-one help.
After a meal, guest speaker Superintendent of Tangipahoa Parish School System, Melissa Stilley, continued in the same positive manner, offering her gratitude for the way the people of Ponchatoula have responded in so many ways to the student outreach. She said, “This is evidence of what partnership is all about,” adding her wish for every community to have an after-school program.
Starting the program in time for the 2017 school year required a lot of preparatory work by Human Resources Director, Lisa Jones, and May Stilley, aiding Mayor Zabbia in realizing a dream come true and supported by him and the City Council.
This school year, first and second grades were added bringing the total enrollment to 50 students and it is stressed this is not a babysitting program. Classroom teachers recommend the students that would profit most from the extra help. Ponchatoula Student Outreach teachers are available to meet with parents and guardians when picking up their children after classes.
Staff for 2018-19 are 1st and 2nd grades: Daphne Griffin and Charlotte Gordon; 3rd and 4th: Kimberly James and Elisha Perry; and 7th and 8th: Windy Haist and Jennifer Daigle.
Classroom assistants are Shirley Creel, Cathy Colkmire, Annette Tullier, Leigh Burnthorne, Jenea Magee, and Kacey Martin.
The advisory board is comprised of members from each school participating. They are Amber Gardner, Tucker Elementary; Tamaria Whittington, D.C. Reeves; Rosalyn Heider and Melissa Ryan, Martha Vinyard; Mary Beth Crovetto, Ponchatoula Junior High; and Shelly Ernst and Danette Ragusa, St. Joseph School.
The program uses community resources for youth to see and connect with positive role models.
For those interested in being a sponsor, mentor or volunteer to invest in the long-term future success of the students and the community as a result, call her at 985-401-2210.
By Kathryn J. Martin